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  • Writer's pictureClaire M. Burnett

Bye-Bye #FOMO, Hello #JOMO

Let me first start by recognizing and acknowledging that I’m a homebody. While I love to travel and go on random adventures, I can think of no greater bliss than snuggling into a plush blanket on the couch with a Capri candle lit while watching your favorite show or movie. In fact, it takes a great love for an individual or activity to get me to choose another option.

So yes, a Fear Of Missing Out is not necessarily the plague of my life, but I’d like to talk you through how I began to find Joy Of Missing Out.

Did you know…

that a closely related emotion to FOMO is Regret? For my business nerds, think “Loss Aversion.”

Dr. Amy Summerville, an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at Miami University says social interaction is deeply ingrained in humanity, "comparable to needing food and shelter.”

FOMO has a lot to do with a social necessity. Besides benchmarks for success in life like promotions at work, or getting that ripped festival body, time with friends is also extremely important, and the excitement that other people are experiencing can drive at our own feelings of accomplishment.

In behavioral economics, the psychology behind FOMO can be partially explained as a concept called loss aversion. Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman demonstrated people’s strong tendency to want to avoid any losses and their research suggested that losses are twice as impactful on people, psychologically, as gains. We just hate to lose out on anything.

It’s Actually Not That New…

The fear of missing out is an old—actually ancient—fear, being triggered by the newest form of communication: dun dun dun…social media.

Our survival as an individual within a tribe, and thus our survival as a species, once hinged on our being aware of threats both to ourselves and to the larger group. To be “in the know” when we roamed around in small groups was critical to survival. Think of those caveman days. To not be aware of a new food source, for example, meant you literally missed out on something that could mean the difference between life and death.

When humans began to create more stable farming communities, being in the know involved paying attention, being in the right places at the right times to get resources and information, and engaging in the gossip of the day as it filtered through the community.

We all know that systems to enhance communication among humans to keep each other informed of important information, including potential sources of danger to our tribes/countries/species, developed over time and include the forms we interact with today such as television, newspapers, the Internet, and social media platforms.

Because being left out is considered that important an event for us to pay attention to and to respond to quickly, we actually have a part of our brain that is specialized for sensing if we are being left out. It’s usually not a matter of life and death whether you are on Twitter or Instagram, but for many people social media has become their community lifeline.

So What’s The Brain Doing?...

Ok. NERD TALK COMIN ATCHA: So there’s a specialized part of the brain in the limbic system called the amygdala. It’s job it is to detect whether something could be a threat to our survival. Not having vital information or getting the impression that you’re not a part of the “in” group is enough for many individuals’ amygdalas to engage the stress response otherwise known as the “fight or flight” response.

Feeling physically stressed does not feel good, and that’s one of the reasons why feeling left out or the “fear of missing out” feels bad and people want to avoid it. They’re trying to prevent the stress response. (I don’t blame ya.)

Unfortunately, some of us redouble our efforts to not miss out on anything and end up in an almost constant process of “checking” behavior. That is, we’re constantly looking at our Instagram or Twitter feeds to see if we’re missing out on anything, which doesn’t actually lessen our stress that much. Being in a hyper-vigilant state is the complete opposite of being at peace.

So Who’s Most Sensitive To It?

Do you have Instagram, twitter or Facebook? Do you shop online? If you answered yes...start paying close attention.

Social Media and our access to information has inundated us with a variety of different ways to feel left out, less than or simply not good enough. We are exposed to the extremes and “average” is no longer an option. We sit day in, day out comparing our behind the scenes to others highlight reels and we are constantly left in a state of regret for what we didn’t do instead of gratitude for what we did.

Dr. Barry Schwartz introduced a psychological principle behind FOMO called the The Paradox of Choice. The Principle explains that the more choices we have, the less happy we are with what we choose. Too many choices leads to anxiety and depressive FOMO feelings. The people most sensitive to FOMO, according to Schwartz, are maximizers, people who are always trying to get “the best” out of every situation and don’t know how to be content with “good enough.”

How is FOMO Hurting Us…

We’ve dumped ourselves into an era of instant gratification. It's easy to define our lives based on the virtual crowd watching, critiquing, and applauding our every move. It's even easier to conform to the crowd's mold -- constantly measuring our lives against a celebrity's Instagram post or a friend's life event.

This 'give me more' and 'I want that' attitude can be detrimental to us both physically and mentally. The problem with FOMO is that the individuals it impacts are looking outward instead of inward. When you're so tuned in to the 'other,' or the 'better' (in your mind), you lose your authentic sense of self. This constant fear of missing out means you are not participating as a real person in your own world.

While we may not all experience severe social anxiety, sadly, many of us have pretty bad cases of FOMO -- even if we're unwilling to admit it. And, this incessant worrying about what everyone else is doing only causes us to miss out on our own lives even more.

Quit 3rd Party Vendoring…

Sometimes missing out is a GREAT thing. Maybe you missed the long lines, the drunk people, the extra gas you would’ve spent, what you paid for parking, or the ex you didn’t want to bump into!

Let’s try on some gratitude. Sound sappy? I know, I know, but here’s the thing: countless research papers say this works. So...let’s just not fight research for a second:

A way to reduce FOMO and increase happiness is learning to accept “good enough.”

Look around. What good things might you be taking for granted? Home? Family? Friends? Think about it.

Now take a couple seconds to imagine those were taken away from you. How would you feel? Bad things happen to us randomly, right? So to some degree, you are blessed to have what you do.

Do you feel more grateful? Mentally subtracting cherished moments from your life makes you appreciate them more, makes you grateful and makes you happier.

Another activity you can try comes from the Paradox of Choice we talked about earlier.

Try reducing the number of options you consider before making a decision, and practice gratitude for what is good in a decision rather than focusing on regret and disappointments with what is less than ideal.

Are you seeing a theme here? Focusing on what is good about what we have physically changes the chemistry of our brains and the hormones that contribute to our feelings. The inevitable comparisons to the fake lives on social media makes you feel you have less. Contemplating what you are lucky to already possess makes you feel you have more.

Now, I think it’s important for me to say that social media isn’t the devil. But we’re wired to compare ourselves to others and you know where that leads on a medium where everyone is cutting corners to look their best.

Social media can help you be happy. But don’t scroll and compare. Use it to plan face-to-face get togethers. Columbia professor John Cacioppo, the leading researcher on loneliness, says doing that can make your life better: Social Media is merely a tool, he says, and like any tool, its effectiveness will depend on its user. If you use Facebook to increase face-to-face contact, it increases social capital. So if social media lets you organize a game of football among your friends, that’s healthy. If you turn to social media instead of playing football, however, that’s unhealthy.

And quit 3rd party vendoring. If everyone can have your time, then your time actually isn’t that valuable! ;)

Got a tip or trick I didn’t mention? Maybe just some feedback? Email me at




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